By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
FRANKLINVILLE — The Ocean City football team went into halftime Friday night with a ton of confidence after scoring late in the first half on a tremendous hook-and-lateral play to pull to within eight points of host Delsea Regional in the opening round of the South Jersey Group 3 playoffs. What the Red Raiders didn’t have were any good answers to stopping Crusaders running back Aidan Borguet.
Borguet had a dominating night out of Delsea’s triple-option offense, rushing 29 times for 237 yards to lead the fourth-seeded Crusaders past No. 5 Ocean City, 56-34, and into a second-round matchup with mighty Timber Creek, the No. 1 seed. He scored two rushing touchdowns and added a third on Delsea’s only passing attempt of the night, an 18-yard screen pass that Borguet took down the left sideline for a touchdown that gave the Crusaders a 28-13 lead late in the first half.
Two plays later, Ocean City quarterback Harry Pfeifle hooked up with Bobby Shallcross over the middle, and Shallcross pitched to Issac Robertson, who raced down the sideline to score with four seconds left before halftime and close the gap to 28-20.
“We put that play in, probably, in Week 4, and we practice it. I’ve been waiting for it all year and when they sent in the play call, I was like, ‘alright, let’s go.’ But I’m still a little shocked by all the penalties,” said Robertson, who finished with 85 rushing yards and three touchdowns. “I love my family. We all contributed and we’re all doing the best we can, playing as hard as we can. We did our best tonight. It’s not what we wanted to happen, but we played together.”
“I just think they wore us down. They are very physical up front, very good backs, an excellent line. They make you pretty much have to score points every time you have the football, and we weren’t able to keep up. We played hard. At halftime, I thought we were in good shape, we just couldn’t slow them down in the second half,” said Ocean City coach Kevin Smith. “We thought that coming out of halftime, the first drive was really important to get a stop, but they got a decent kick return and we took a selfish personal foul penalty. We had too many selfish penalties in the second half, and you can’t give those guys free yards. It’s hard enough stopping them. I thought we really played them tough in the first half, they just wore us down in the second half. That offensive line is excellent.”
Delsea (7-3) jumped out to a 7-0 lead when quarterback Mason Maxwell scored on the Crusaders’ opening possession, but Ocean City (6-3) answered right back, tying the game at 7 on a 17-yard run by Robertson after Pfeifle converted a big fourth down earlier in the drive. The teams continued to trade punches, as early in the second quarter Ocean City closed the gap to 14-13 on another touchdown run by Robertson, but Borguet got loose for a 37-yard run on Delsea’s next possession to push the lead to 20-13.
The Crusaders extended the lead to 36-20 with 8:19 left in the third quarter on a 1-yard sneak by Maxwell, then relied on their punishing running game to keep the Red Raiders at bay. Shaikyi Hannah scored from two yards out and added the two-point conversion later in the third as the lead swelled to 44-20. Liam Bergman ripped off a 67-yard touchdown run on the very next play to make it 44-26, but Delsea effectively put the game away with a Tymire Kizee 5-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
“It’s not an offense that you see, which makes it tough to prepare for, but it’s really their execution. They don’t make mistakes, the backs are tough to bring down, the quarterback is smart and the linemen are big and tough — that’s a great combination,” Smith said. “We kept answering the bell, that’s for sure. Even in the third quarter, after we broke off a long run, we were only down two scores and I was thinking one stop, we’re moving the ball and you never know what can happen. But they wore us down.”
Bergman finished with 98 rushing yards and Cian O’Donoghue added 61 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, all in the fourth quarter. Ocean City now turns its attention to a Thanksgiving Day matchup with Pleasantville, which lost to West Deptford in the first round of the South Jersey Group 2 playoffs.
“Obviously, we want to win and finish the season on a high note, and that would give us more wins than last year,” Smith said. “The big thing is, we have to learn how to beat teams like Delsea. That’s the next step, and that’s what we’ll dedicate ourselves to in the offseason.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays